It is impossible to see Florence in 3 days. Maybe six months might be enough time to see the museums, cathedrals, piazzas, etc., nevermind the shopping. Eva and I chose the two major attractions, The Uffizi and Accademia, which we accomplished in one day and experienced stimulation overload. Even without walking into a museum, art is everywhere–the architecture, frescoes, and the street musicians (I always obliged with a euro). We studied Rick Steves‘ Florence travel book, read and reread, but there was so much to take in. Florence is a mecca for students of fine art and one big party. Bellisimo!

Following our tours, we headed to the train station for our next leg of our trip, Pietrasanta. Purchasing a ticket at the Downtown Florence Train Station, was a lesson in patience and perseverance. Never mind that you have people standing in line behind you probably wondering why two 52 year old women are on the brink of tears over buying tickets and reading the schedule that is of course, written in Italian. However, we were not alone. There were many, what I presumed to be foreigners, who looked like “deer in the headlights”. I have no doubt that the polizia municipali were probably getting a good laugh. Watch for us on YouTube.

A word about traveling by train–PACK LIGHT. My 23 lb. suitcase is small by most standards, but, with a large carry-on on a train, it was burdensome.

At Pietrasanta we had the pleasure of staying at the Hotel Palagi owned by Elisa Palagi, cousin to the Palagi brothers of Marios’ Place. Charming, quaint, and centrally located in a town that is known for its marble studios. We arrived at dusk and walked to the piazza which was lively with diners and families. Children playing futbol, couples sitting on the cathedral steps, young parents pushing babies in strollers, and diners under twinkling lights and cafe umbrellas. Young and old together enjoying the evening. Pinch me! This must be a movie.

Our last day in Pietrasanta, we took a brief train ride to Lucca, where we were met by Elisa’s friend, Roberta. I resisted this change of plans, as I was really looking forward to seeing Cinque Terra. However, sometimes the best times occur when they are spontaneous. And the opportunity to spend time with a local resident and see Italy through her eyes was not something I may ever be able to do again. Roberta who grew up in Lucca, and was equally amused in seeing her home through our eyes. Lucca is surrounded by walls built by the Etruscans, the birthplace of Puccini, and high-end stores that felt at times like we were on Rodeo Drive. McDonalds across the street from Armani in 2,000 year old buildings. Again, tradition and modernization coming together. We ended our tour with Roberta over birres, and stories of travel, life, and love. Future Facebook friends, and invitations to the US.